Monday, March 31, 2008

Using Your GUT

So often as we brainstorm and look for ways to keep entertaining the audience there comes a time when you have to use your gut instincts. While we have all seen and done lots of research in radio over the last 25 years there are lots of times when research just doesn't give us any answers or direction.

Imagine if you had to research the success of a TV show like Seinfeld. How would you even describe it? Even after you outlined the characters and laid out a funny summary of a show how would the audience be able to see the characters, the potential for humor or the entertainment value of the show? Even though it became a big enough hit for Jerry to retire on with millions it took almost 2 seasons to even show promise with the audience. I bet if you looked at the early research on the show you'd probably give it the axe.

Obviously someone at NBC used their gut and kept with it.

No doubt you've got a personality, a promotion idea, a unique feature or a stunt that turned into a success without research or even the thought of it. We used to have more of these moments in Radio, but the 'prove it before you commit' moment has clearly been holding us back for a number of years. In may cases you can hear stations that haven't had a good idea since two for Tuesday and others that have flamed out with way too many ideas.

Here are a few thoughts as you prepare to put your gut on the line:

  • The Balance of Art and Science: When the age of research in radio was still very young in the early 80s rock consultant Lee Abrams was probably the first to tell all of us about the need to balance the data (science) we were seeing with the creativity (art) we all needed to keep injecting into the products. It still applies today. Research has probably taken on a lot more weight on the scales which makes the art side a lot more important. Keep that balance in mind all the time and your product will be a lot more entertaining than it is.

  • You Still Need A Plan: You just can't throw ideas all over the room or station without having a plan to organize them, execute them and make sure they balance with the science side of programming.

  • Become the Audience: Get out of the studio and the station with your ideas and try and hear/visualize them from the audience's perspective. Remember it's about the audience not about our internal world.

  • Leave Room for Improv: While you need that plan (the science) you also have to have room to make it spontaneous (or at least sound that way). You also need to make room for the last minute - on the spot ingredient that is key to radio's uniqueness.

  • Know where you're going: What is the punch line, where is the exit, who has the joke, what are you trying to promote? Make sure the goal you had when reached for your gut is still attainable in the execution.

  • Don't Over cook: Nothing worse than a burnt steak - if it's a little undercooked you can still send it back for a little more heat. Once it's burnt it's toast.

  • Be Paitent - It takes time to make creativity stick with the audience. They may not get it right away and that may be the big reason it works in the end.

These tips may sound like we are going back and forth - and we are. That's how you balance Art and Science.

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